From twerking builders to Scottish football fans: 10 most complained-about adverts in 2016

The Advertising Standards Authority has released the 10 most complained-about adverts from last year.

Thursday, 19th January 2017, 12:47 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th January 2017, 12:47 pm

The list includes MoneySuperMarket’s dance-off, Paddy Power’s Euro 2016 advert featuring Scottish fans, and jokes about disability in Maltesers commercials.

But of the complaints made about the top 10 adverts in the list, none were upheld by the broadcasting watchdog.


Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

This TV ad featured Gary the bodyguard dressed in a suit and sunglasses, dancing at a rally.

Complaint: Viewers mainly complained that Gary’s moves were overtly sexual and not suitable to be seen by children.

What happened: The ASA judged that the ad would not cause serious or widespread offence to viewers and was generally likely to be interpreted in a humorous manner.


MoneySuperMarket’s ‘Epic Squads’ TV ad showed Dave, dressed in a suit jacket, denim shorts and high heels, and another character Colin, dressed in a fluorescent jacket and hard hat, engaged in a gang dance-off.

Complaint: Viewers said the ad was offensive and overtly sexual, while some people objected that it could be seen to be homophobic and could encourage hate crimes.

What happened: The ASA concluded that it was unlikely to provoke serious or widespread offence or to be seen as condoning or encouraging harmful discriminatory behaviour in real life.


This TV ad showed a women getting home from work to her female partner who removed her top and passionately kissed her.

Complaint: Complainants challenged whether the ad was sexually explicit and inappropriately scheduled.

What happened: The ASA judged that the ad would not cause serious or widespread offence and were satisfied that the scheduling restriction prevented it being shown in or around dedicated children’s programmes or those with particular appeal to children.


Another TV ad featuring Dave and Colin. This time they were alone in an underground car park and each performed dance moves in a bid to out-do each other.

Complaint: Viewers complained that it was overtly sexual and offensive because it showed what they perceived to be two homosexuals together.

What happened: The ASA ruled the ad did not break the rules as the majority of viewers would interpret the scenes as light-hearted and humorous.


A re-run of the 2010 ad featured two teams of blindfolded men playing football.

Complaint: Viewers once again objected to the scene where it was suggested a man had kicked a cat that had run on to the pitch after mistaking it for the ball.

What happened: The ASA originally concluded that the majority of viewers would see the ad as humorous and not humiliating or undermining to blind people and did not reinvestigate.


Smart Energy’s ad showed cartoon characters Gaz and Leccy being burnt in a toaster and hit across the room with a spatula, being cooked in a microwave and electrocuted by the television set.

Complaint: Viewers complained that it was excessively violent.

What happened: The ASA was the ad was clearly surreal and fantastical.


This ad showed a group of Scottish people singing about not qualifying for UEFA Euro 2016 but not minding because they could still bet on England to lose.

Complaint: Viewers said it was racist and encouraged anti-English views.

What happened: The ASA ruled the stereotypical features used to describe and depict the Scottish people in the ad would largely be understood to be a celebration of Scottish culture rather than malicious mocking.


The ad featured various scenarios which were unacceptable in a relationship and prompted complaints that it was sexist and irresponsible.

Complaint: Viewers complained that it implied only men engaged in abusive behaviours and that the ad might actually prevent male victims of domestic abuse from seeking help.

What happened: Complaints were not upheld by the ASA.


9. Gourmet Burger Kitchen. 195 complaints. Not upheld.

Complaint: Complainants believed the ad was offensive to vegetarians and vegans with wording such as: “You’ll always remember when you gave up being a vegetarian” and “Anyone fancy a nice, juicy, 6oz lettuce?”

What happened: The restaurant took independent action to withdraw three of the ads.


The ad showed a woman in a wheelchair discussing her new boyfriend with two of her friends while enjoying Maltesers. She mentioned how her disability caused her to have a spasm during a romantic encounter, which her boyfriend ‘misinterpreted’.

Complaint: Viewers said the ad was overtly sexual and offensive to disabled people.

What happened: The ASA said the post-9pm restriction prevented children from seeing it and it was likely to be seen as championing diversity and disability, not ridiculing it.